On Finding Material…

It is evident that the title of my blog 56andthecity is a play on Sex And The City. I will admit to being a fan of the show, and so it seemed fitting when I moved to NYC in the fall. On occasion, I do find myself quoting a few lines, here and there, from the series when it feels applicable to my own adventures in life. 

There was an episode in which Carrie could not find something to write about for her column because she wasn’t having much success in her dating life. And, since her writing was dedicated to relationships, she was out of material. So she wrote a piece about her socks. I distinctly recalled this particular installment on one of my walks with Sami when my own socks had lost their elasticity and were continually sliding down into my shoes. Irritated as I was, I thought to myself, “well, you could talk about your socks.” 50SocksAndTheCity. 

I tell you this because I, too, am struggling with what I should share. When we first moved here, Ashay and I had our misadventures and funny antics that seemed entertaining tales. But now, for better or worse, as we settle in, we seem to have fewer and fewer mishaps. And, since I have yet to secure a place in the dance community, I am desperately lacking in daily anecdotes. I don’t particularly feel like I have a wealth of captivating stories stored in my back pocket to whip out in company. 

So last Saturday, as we were getting ready to meet up for dinner to celebrate a friend’s birthday, I began to have a bit of a meltdown. I’ll admit social media played a hand in my utter disintegration. I was mindlessly scrolling through Instagram and Facebook, and I couldn’t help but notice everyone’s productivity and displays of new creative endeavors. People doing things – that was the straw, as they say. I began to imagine what I would be like with my friends that evening. What could I possibly have to contribute? At this particular season of my life, I’m just a real housewife in NY! 

Fast forward to our train ride back after a delicious dinner, sparkling conversation, loads of laughs, and a few cocktails. Ashay turned to me and said – see, you were funny, charming, and as usual, a witty storyteller. To which I replied – I still got it! And I didn’t have to pull out any stories about my socks. 

Surprisingly I have discovered…Life itself is all the material I need. 

On a Budding Perspective…

In my neighborhood, where I walk three times a day with my dog, my eyes have been feasting lately on the hopeful sprouting of new leaves and potential flowers. The air is filled with spring, awakening from a frozen slumber and doling out a sense of optimism. 

Today, even as the clouds covered the city and created a dense, gray, dreary atmosphere, I still felt that sense of hope. As I strolled down one particular street where the trees were saturated with white and pink blossoms, I unexpectedly exhaled a deep sigh of release. As I let go of the heaviness that seems to ride upon my shoulders these days, it just naturally began to dissolve. 

I began working on this piece yesterday, and ironically today, as the sun was shining brightly, I felt that heaviness bearing down on me once again. I had awakened to yet another rejection. The realization that I may not be able to make it here hit me harder than usual. Perhaps it was due to reading the email first thing in the morning, or maybe it’s just reality. Either way, it wasn’t the best way to begin my day. But, I had to go on my morning walk, and as I made my way again down the street of blossoming trees, this idea popped into my thoughts – the rain is necessary for the buds to bloom, and maybe the challenges I am currently facing are here for a reason too. Sometimes a setback can be a setup for success. And, just as the flowers don’t appear instantaneously, neither will my new projects. I have to keep watering the soil, shining light, and being patient. 

As they say in the musical Hadestown, spring will come again. 

On Writing a New Narrative

Sometimes, it is easier to find one good story or stock answer neatly packed in your back pocket when meeting up with friends you haven’t seen in a while. Especially when you, yourself, have made a significant life change. 

My daughter had been visiting from college for the past ten days in NYC, and some dear friends were here from Colorado. The first few days with our daughter, we had activity-filled days with trips to the hair and nail salon, Central Park, and experiencing a couple of amazing Broadway shows. Once our friends arrived, the days became even more packed with museums, ferry rides, and delicious restaurants. It was so fun to be able to be “the locals.” 

After they had all left the city, I ventured to Chelsea Market for a brief visit with other friends before they departed NYC as well. 

I had lots of conversations with each person about my existence here in NYC. However, something felt different when I reached for my story, which was still neatly tucked in my back pocket. I tried to change the narrative. Usually, when someone inquires about how life is going for me here, I tend to reply with my sob story. It goes a little like this: “I moved out here for Ashay, gave up my dance company, don’t have any teaching gigs, and keep getting rejected.” However, yesterday, I started telling my friends that I was changing my narrative, which took me right into describing the familiar story! Ugh! I couldn’t believe that I was not able just to say, “I’m applying for lots of jobs and residencies, and I’m hoping something happens!” Only after I’ve given my “woe-is-me” response do I usually follow with “I’m throwing spaghetti at the wall and waiting for something to stick!” 

And so, at the end of each meeting with a friend, I’ve received warm, long hugs as they whisper in my ear to keep my chin up, keep going after my goals, and something is bound to happen. And while I love the big, warm hugs and the enthusiastic pep talks, I started to feel a little bit like a loser. Essentially, I’ve made myself my own victim. And, I really want to be done with that. 

So, here is the plan. When asked about my life in NYC, I intend to tell them that I love it. I am inspired by the amount of art that resides here. I adore walking through the charming neighborhoods. And every time I spot the Empire State Building, I feel giddy with excitement. And then, I will also share this – Sometimes, I worry that my career as a choreographer who has her own dance company is over. I’m afraid I won’t amount to much in the city where I have always wanted to create. And, I honestly don’t know how this will all turn out. And all of that is my new narrative, my new trajectory. I am grateful, transparent, excited, and scared, all wrapped up into one. 

I think it is important to write our own story. We can choose to be a victim or be victorious. We can choose hope or despair. And we can make our future, we can make magic, and we can make a beautiful life. It isn’t always easy, but not many things worth having are easy to obtain.

But, I’ll also finish my reply with this – I will continue throwing spaghetti at the wall. After all, it is the best way to see if it’s ready. 

On Seeing Through The Fog part 2

A few months ago, as I was on a morning walk with my dog, the fog was so thick I could barely see the Statue of Liberty. There were, however, traces showing the outline of the iconic figure, and it sparked the idea that a glimmer of hope is sometimes all we need to get us through. You can’t always see it clearly, but you can feel optimistic when there is a faint hint.

Today, however, as the heavy, dense fog rolled in across the Hudson River, I began to delve deeply into the fog of my own life and the even more extreme world events. There was no hint of the statue, no glimmer, no edges this time. It was as if it had disappeared. 

In just the past two years and all that has transpired, I wonder how we could possibly dig ourselves out. Have we gone too far? Just as the Statue of Liberty was completely hidden, I fear so is humanity. At the pandemic’s start, I remember thinking how this could be the event that might bring us all together. We would do what we could to help each other, provide comfort to those in need, and protect one another. It was beyond my comprehension that this could have brought about a division so vast that it feels irreparable.  

As we try to navigate our way through the haze of the pandemic, we have also seen injustices to those in the BIOPOC community, hate crimes, and police brutality. The reported criminal activity seems to have escalated though I realize there have always been criminals; the acts have become more heinous and horrific. And then there is a war—a murderous dictator going full throttle as the whole world watches. Shockingly the same people who are anti-mask, anti-vaccine seem to be the ones who are somehow on the side of Putin. I am baffled. It makes no sense. And even while it seems impossible, that vast division has grown even more expansive.

 As I sat, safely tucked into my lovely, well-appointed apartment, reading about the horrors of the world, both close by and far from home, I began to think of a performance I created called “A World On Fire” in 2019. Naively I believed that our troubles would somehow start to dissipate, and surely we would all see the light, douse the fire, make some changes and come back together as a society. Little did I know we would be hit with a global pandemic that would throw humanity into disarray as we threw gasoline on the flames. 

So now, as the fire grows and the fog thickens, I find myself wondering…When there is no glimmer of hope…how can you possibly hang on to it?   

On Turning 57

A few days ago, I turned 57. Fifty-seven. 

Aging is one of those constants in life that genuinely feels dichotomous. Of course, the definition of aging is to continue living, which is the goal. However, almost all of us want to stop time, or at the very least, slow it down. But, alas, to stop time is to die, to cease existing. So age I must. 

I’m not going to lie; this year’s birthday felt hard. Here I am, aging in my new home in New York City. Of all of my birthdays, this is the first one where I have no clear direction. No plans. No rehearsals. No upcoming classes to teach or shows for which I am preparing. Usually, with each passing year, I take stock of how my life is moving along on my birthday. But, as I was sipping my celebratory cocktails, I shared with Ashay how I had primarily been feeling blue all day after he had inquired how my birthday had been. It is challenging for me to be without aim. But that is what I am experiencing – aimlessness. Perhaps this place of uncertainty is where I am meant to be at this particular time. And maybe if I lean into this moment, I can find a new direction, a new path. 

Friends of mine, who follow my writings, have inquired – will I change it to 57 And The City? To which I have replied – no, I don’t think so. 56 is when I began this journey, and it will always represent a time in my life where change was abundant, new adventures were prevalent, and the bravery of starting over was just within my reach. 

Besides, 56AndTheCity just sounds better! 

56 And a (slightly smaller) city

It is 6:00 a.m., and I’ve been up for about an hour or so. Unable to silence my rapidly spinning thoughts, I relinquished my attempts at sleep, rose from my bed, and started the coffee maker. 

I am currently sitting in Boulder, at my carefully curated dining room table that I have listed for sale, thinking about how our life in Colorado will be a memory in just mere days. A lovely, beautiful memory. 

I’ve done my fair share of moving in my life. I left my childhood home for college, leaving that college for another, going to Illinois for grad school, five moves within Chicago proper, two houses in Boulder, and now our home in NYC! But, leaving this town, this home, where we raised our daughter, grew as a family, and generally had a pretty remarkable life is bringing about some melancholy.  If you’ve ever been lucky enough to live in Colorado, you know what a miracle it is to see the mountains every day. Sometimes it feels akin to living in a painting — big brushstrokes of jagged peaks, tall pine trees, and glorious open space. 

But, sometimes our tastes change, and the art we’d like to see resembles something more modern, geometric, and frenetic. 

Since October, we’ve been residing in Manhattan – that almost feels unreal when I say that. I’ve been reading a book about writers living in and then leaving and sometimes returning to New York City. One writer said, “every writer dreams of coming to the city in their twenties.” Well, I’m not in my twenties, but in the city, I will live. Realizing a dream I’ve had since I was seventeen is an accomplishment on its own, and I’m eager to see what transpires in my next chapter. It is exciting and daunting all in one. But, rise to the occasion, I must! I need to remind myself of this one basic notion – I am an artist, and I must create. Full stop! And so, I will continue applying for dance teaching jobs, choreographic residencies, and writing gigs. I know I will get some rejections, but I also know that the right opportunities are out there. It just might take a little more effort to unearth them. 

The morning’s light is beginning to appear, and the mountains that I can see from my window reveal themselves. I will revel in this time that I was living in a painting. Soon I will sell this table and the rest of our belongings worth selling. And I will bid farewell to Colorado. 

As I sip my delicious steaming beverage, I know this much to be true – people change, art will always happen, and my coffee never lets me down. 

On NYC and Me…

Two things sparked my thoughts last night about New York City and my place in it.

First – My two beloveds and I began reminiscing about our life in Boulder. It all started when Ashay was suddenly experiencing pangs of nostalgia and missing our life in Colorado – things like long, beautiful hikes, open space, glorious mountains, our larger home, and, well, cleaner smelling air. Akasha quickly caught this train of thinking and expressed her love of the town she grew up in and the home we all shared. Intellectually she was pretty aware that Ashay and I would relocate to NYC, but when her holiday break from college rolled around, it tossed her for a loop when it became clear that this would be her new home to visit. It would seem that her love for NYC and her affection for Boulder could not coexist. And so we all went deeply into what we loved about Boulder and what we would miss – Ashay and Akasha did, indeed, feel it all a little more than I did. As we wrapped up our end-of-the-day Boulder retrospection, everyone did their nighttime routine, and one by one, drifted into slumber.

The second event that elicited some thoughts about my decision to stick with NYC and see what kind of magic can happen was this – around 1:00 a.m. I couldn’t sleep, and going against any healthy recommendation to stay off of electronics when unable to snooze, my fingers glided their way to Instagram. I happened upon a post that Debbie Allen had made about celebrating the anniversary of the movie Fame. Oh, that movie. If my recollection is correct, I saw Fame at the age of 17. I was stunned for a midwestern girl growing up in a relatively small town in Ohio. How I wanted to be in New York – to dance, sing, act – anything that could bring out the performer in me. With a belief so deep in my heart that I belonged in the city, I was going to end up there without one iota of doubt. I had a lot of stops along the way, college in Ohio, grad school in southern Illinois, professional life in Chicago, and then moving to Boulder. Well, it took me 39 years, but I’m here. And I still have to believe that I owe it to myself to give it the ole college try. I want to be inspired by the people, the antics, the culture. I want to create, both as a choreographer and a writer. I want to wake up in this sleepless city and live, really live. 

I know living here is complex,  the population and architecture dense, and yes… the smell, the smell is really something sometimes. The occasional smell and grit of the city remind me that life is gritty. But if I have learned anything about my years on this earth, it is this – sometimes, you can find a metaphor for just about everything. This world is socially and politically pungent. The reality is we need to see the challenges, embrace them, and then fight for change. 

I know I’m not gonna live forever, and people may not remember my name. But, I’m going to reach for the limitless sky and see what happens. And so I’m fighting for this city. I’m just hoping it reciprocates.

On Finding The Right Words

Let’s talk about looking for the “right” words. Lately, I feel as if I have constantly been searching – a search for purpose, a search for meaning, and now a search for words. Now that I am forging this new path as a writer, I feel as though I should always be writing – writing something pithy, deeply profound, humorous, or intellectual. However, for the past week or two, I haven’t found the right story to tell, antics to relate to, or a blunder in my thought process. Not that the shenanigans have been in short supply, but nothing story-worthy, I suppose. So the word search continues. 

And then there are the moments where I’ve been in conversations in which the other person confides in me, sharing their fears, anxieties. I rummage through my catalog of compassionate replies but always seem to fall short of excellent, thoughtful advice. I’m not sure where I go wrong, but I just can’t seem to be helpful. Maybe it is that we are coming up on year 2 of a pandemic, and I’ve run out of optimism. Or it could be that I just am not as wise as I had hoped to be at this stage of my life. But to suffice it to say, I fear I am not necessarily the wealth of solid advice I thought I was. But, frankly, my listening skills feel as though they’ve grown – and that, I believe, is a good thing. More often than not, in the past, I used to find myself thinking of a witty comeback, a deep thought, or an experience I could tell while someone else was sharing their feelings of experiences. That is to say; I think I wouldn’t always be listening fully but rather be engaged in my thought process. Now, however, I stop and listen. Then, I formulate a thoughtful response, or, sometimes better yet, I say nothing and just let them vent. Venting can be a very cathartic act. Sometimes the listener needs simply listen – say nothing. 

These are some of the words I’d like to close with. I began writing this post days ago when it was still 2021, and since then, we have shifted into a new year, hopefully, a new beginning – one that could bring hope, change, and the promise of a better, brighter future. But that is up to all of us. We have to choose our actions carefully, and our words too. We need to listen to each other and make efforts to work together. We have to stop. Stop everything now and again to breathe in the air, take in the silence (or the noise), and observe all that life has to offer. Even now – sitting with my laptop, a cup of coffee to my right,  and the sounds of the city behind my head, I stop. I breathe. And I behold the magic of a cleansing moment. 

On feeding – my soul, our bellies 

Since moving to NYC, I have become more of a housewife/home manager/chef/director of housekeeping – essentially all of the above. It seems as though I’m typically in charge of figuring out what is going in our bellies at any given time. So, I’ve been the one making dinner reservations, ordering food online, grocery shopping, cooking, or just generally trying to manage how and what we are eating. We’ve had some delicious food and have made some mistakes, but that is how one discovers their favorite restaurants and recipes. 

So now we have a few solid go-to places to order from or visit in-person – Joe’s Shanghai, Thai Villa, Fraunces Tavern, Bengal Tiger, Mamouns, just to name a few. And, we’ve found some places that serve a mighty fine Manhattan too! Still, though, we continue to be on the search for the best pizza (gluten-free for Ash, gluten-full for me), but that will present itself, I have no doubt. 

Feeding my soul, however, well, that can tend to be a bit more elusive. It typically comes when I create new work or guide dancers to find their internal energetic flow, but those moments are currently in short supply. I haven’t found myself in a studio for over two months now, so the soul fuel needs to come from other sources. Writing tends to make me feel better – it feels cathartic. I often wonder if anyone is reading this or if “writing a blog” is just another name for publicizing my diary simply for my own sake. With all of that being said, I still find that it feeds me as an artist and a human. 

And lastly, social interactions are vital to keeping me from falling into despair, and fortunately, I’ve been able to reconnect with old friends, former colleagues, and sweet college mates! Since we arrived in NYC, I’ve combined feeding my soul and belly with our reunited friends. On a few occasions, we’ve had friends to our home to share a meal and laughs, met up at restaurants to catch up over coffee, cocktails, or delicious food, and I’ve even managed to convince a friend to join me at a modern dance concert. I’ll continue seeking out good food, good friends, and for the good of the blog; I’ll keep wandering around NYC – any rookie blunder I make feeds the stories! This is all to say that the essential ingredient for moving through a series of changes is finding what genuinely sustains you. Latch on to that and drink in the new experiences, old connections, and all this city has to offer.

On seeing through the fog…

In a city like Boulder, Colorado, where they boast that the sun shines nearly 300 days a week, it’s always a little strange when you can’t see the mountains behind the clouds. And, then, it’s always such a revelation when they begin to lift and expose the glorious peaks. It was like I had never seen them before if we had several cloudy days in a row. You could almost forget just how majestic they are. In New York, my view is vastly different, yet just as striking. The other morning, as I was strolling along through the twists and turns of the BPC Esplanade, I couldn’t see the Statue of Liberty because of the heavy fog that had rolled in. Much like the disappearance of Lady Liberty or those glorious mountains in Colorado, I haven’t been able to see my own “bravery” because of my thick fog of insecurity. Am I brave? That is the question du jour. On Sunday, Ashay and I hosted a brunch for a couple of my old college friends. Over coffee and mimosas, I began to share our news that we had officially decided to let go of the Boulder home and dive fully into life in NYC. I also depicted how I was plotting to continue working as a choreographer and grow as a writer. Upon hearing this, Jimmy called me courageous. “Courageous or delusional?” I wanted to reply, but somehow I couldn’t say it because I didn’t want to admit how uncertain I really was. Instead, I laughed and sipped a little more mimosa.

Hours later, as the fog began to lift and I could start to see the outline of the Statue of Liberty, it made me understand something about life and the pursuit of happiness. Just seeing the faintest contour within the haze is akin to having hope that a goal you want to realize is there, tucked under water vapors, or condensation, or the weight of your own self-doubt. There are two cards that Ashay and I bought to send to Akasha. These cards have been sitting out on our counter, and though I need to get them in the mail, I’m enjoying reading them on repeat. One says, “You are one Bad Ass female,” and the second one posits this “It had long since come to my attention that people of accomplishment rarely sat back and let things happen to them. they went and out and happened to things.” (Leonardo DiVinci). I just need to be reminded of both of these thoughts. Fearless, badass, and thing doer!

Though it may sometimes feel elusive, it’s there – a mountain, a monument, or a monumental change in view that changes your life. You have to believe all will be revealed exactly as it is meant. Clear as crystal.